In response to the indictment and the pre-trial detention of Vasil Lohvinau (charged under Part 2 of Article 339 of the Criminal Code), we, representatives of the Belarusian human rights community, note the following:
According to the indictment, on May 7, 2021, Lohvinau, along with other persons, painted a mural portraying the “DJs of Change”, Uladzislau Sakalouski and Kiryl Halanau, who played the famous protest song called “Change” at a government-organized event and were subsequently arrested, on a transformer booth in the so-called “Square of Change” in Minsk. By doing this, according to the investigation, Vasil Lohvinau committed a crime under Part 2 of Art. 339 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism), i.e. “intentional actions committed by a group of persons that grossly violated public order manifested by clear disrespect for society and characterized by extreme cynicism”.
On May 14, Lohvinau was detained and is currently being held in the Žodzina pre-trial detention center. It also know that before his arrest Lohvinau was a suspect under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (group actions that grossly violate public order).
The essence of the actions, i.e. the mural, in our opinion, indicates its protest content. Obviously, the purpose of this act was to express protest and disagreement with the falsification of the presidential election and the post-election situation in the country.
We believe that this form of expression falls under the protection of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and has nothing to do with the charges.
In accordance with Art. 19 of the Covenant, everyone has the right to freedom of expression; this right includes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. The exercise of this right may impose special duties and special responsibilities. It may, accordingly, be subject to certain restrictions, which, however, must be established by law and be necessary: for respect for the rights and reputation of others, for the protection of public safety, public order, health and morals of the population.
The accused did not encroach on sacred or historical and cultural values. Nor did the mural encroach on public morals, aimed to promote hostility or hatred on the grounds of nationality, race, religion or social origin and other grounds.
The mural could not and did not lead to significant damage or destruction of the object (transformer booth) on which it was painted, and the material damage from such actions was clearly symbolic.
Therefore, these actions cannot be qualified as hooliganism.
In this context, we consider the imprisonment of Vasil Lohvinau to be politically motivated and the detainee is therefore a political prisoner in accordance with paragraph 3.1 (a) of the Guidelines on the Definition of Political Prisoners.
In this regard, we, representatives of human rights organizations in Belarus, call to:
- immediately and unconditionally release Vasil Lohvinau from custody and drop the criminal charges he is facing;
- immediately release all political prisoners and end political repression in the country.
Human Rights Center "Viasna"
Center for Legal Transformation “Lawtrend”
Belarusian Documentation Center
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
Belarusian Association of Journalists